No one would have imagined that when the country went into lock down due to to Covid-19, and all sport stopped, no one would have thought that it would be a sports story keeping Newcastle fans occupied.
However as it is with Newcastle, the club don’t tend to stick to the rules. In a time when we are kept away from the pub, or even going to matches (I strangely miss watching us grind out victories now!) that a takeover of the club would consume our time and concentration.
Where are we at?
News broke, via companies house, at the beginning of April that a Takeover, and the end of Mike Ashley seemed closer than ever before. A document found by Newcastle fans, saw a signed agreement between PCP Capital (Amanda Staveley’s group) and St James’ Holdings. It seemed that paperwork for the sale of Newcastle United to Staveley’s consortium, which includes the Reuben brothers, and Saudi Arabia’s PIF group seemed to be moving forward after the initial story coming out in January.
A reported price of £300 million had been agreed between the two parties, a considerable drop in the reported asking price of £340 million. Then confirmation that the Premier Leagues ‘Owners and Directors Test’ (ODT) had started.
The test, which looks at the ability of an individual to be able to run a football club, by looking at a 3 year business plan, and prior convictions, and proof of funds, is taking by a panel at the Premier League, with the help of lawyers to determine whether a person or consortium is eligible to run a Premier League football club. Once these tests have been passed, then a final payment is made, and the ownership of a football club can change hands. The test can take anywhere between 2 and 4 weeks, however in the current climate, it could take longer, much to the annoyance of Newcastle fans.
So this is where we are at the minute, playing a waiting game to see whether the end of 13 years under Mike Ashley’s regime is at an end.
As is the norm at Newcastle, nothing is ever simple. Since the news broke that PCP’s bid to buy the club had reached the ODT stage, the Premier League and Fans of the club became involved in a political battle, simply because of PIF’s involvement. PIF which is the investment fund for the Saudi Arabian government, and is headed by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Letters from Amnesty international and the widow of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, were written to the Premier League asking them to stop the takeover, because of the Saudi’s involvement and the Human Rights record of the country, and the thought that Saudi involvement in the Premier League could lead to ‘Sportswashing’.
I am not going to pretend to be an expert on Human Rights, or the record of any country involved. While I do agree the conversation should be had, I don’t believe it is the Premier League that should be having it. I fully understand why the objections have been put forward by the various groups, it is my belief that they have chosen the wrong arena to do it in.
The objections brought forward are more suited to a political arena, and a human rights court, but that is just my opinion. However indications from various journalists and lawyers have indicated this should should not be an issue in the ODT.
Another objection that I feel a bit more educated on, and one that may be a road block, is the alleged piracy of content from Qatari sports channel beIN by the Saudi channel BeoutQ. This is an issue the Premier League have been aware off, and have in the past instructed lawyers to look at the potential piracy of image rights, and showing of live Premier league games without prior consent.
This is an issue that may effect the money gained by each of the member clubs, and one the Premier League will have to take seriously, and something that is more in their wheel house.
Over the past week there have been stories that could effect this issue though, and probably in the favour of the consortium looking at buying Newcastle United.
There has been stories that when the new bids for Premier League rights open next year, the Saudi’s intend to bid for the rights, going head to head for exclusive coverage with beIN Sports, which could see the share of money distributed between clubs increase.
There have also been reports that those who may be involved in the running of NUFC, have no ties to the BeoutQ channel, and should therefore not be tied into a piracy issue. There is also the story that PSG and beIN sports owner/shareholder Nasser Al-Khelaifi is due to appear before courts in Switzerland later in the year on charges of a similar issue, and corruption around the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid. It must however be stated that he, until found otherwise is innocent, and probably will not have any impact on the ODT.
What happens next?
There are many people in the game, a lot more connected than me, that don’t see an issue with the ODT, and believe the new owners, as well as those who will be on the new look board should pass the test.
It is understandable why the Premier League will take some of the above issues seriously, and will be up to the prospective new owners to make sure they have answers ready, and ones that will satisfy those doing the test.
Once the tests have been passed, and there is no obligation from the Premier League to release a statement saying when it has passed, then it is a simple case of a transfer of funds.
Understandably due to the amounts of money involved this may take a few days to complete, once that is done, it will then be a case of a Club released statement to say that the new owners have the keys to the Cathedral on the Hill.
The magnitude of the wealth behind all three of the parties involved in this consortium is staggering, and can only lead to good things for the Club and the City. Do I think this takeover will be complete? In a word, YES! timescale wise I believe we getting towards the end of a wait for news.
Does the Human Rights record worry me? It does, I’d be wrong to say it didn’t. However I have been looking at this in two ways. The first is that this is a football issue, I know football, I could talk about that! I’m aware of the Human Rights, and allegations put towards the Crown Prince and other members of the Saudi Royal family, however I’m nowhere near educated enough in that particular topic to even begin to argue for or against the Saudi’s in this case. This is not to say I’m totally ignoring it.
The second, is that this is the ned of Mike Ashley, and being lucky enough to have grown up watching the Entertainers and Sir Bobby’s team, I can see a return to the excitement around the city and the ground on a match day, something that has been lacking in recent years. I believe that this takeover will have massive benefits for the club and the city as a whole, and that on the face of it can only be a good thing.
So it’s almost time for #Cans